IPEd Conference 2021: Editing on the Edges

Nigel Brew

Nigel is a postgraduate qualified and accredited editor who has been editing in some capacity for over 15 years. He currently works full-time in the Australian Parliamentary Library where, in addition to his primary role as a section director in the Research Branch, he leads the Library’s in-house team of volunteer editors and frequently edits Library research publications in a variety of disciplines. He runs a guest lecture series on editing, writing and language issues; advises on the Library’s style guide; coordinates editing training and resources; and is a member of the inter-agency working group for the new (7th) edition of the Australian Government Style Manual. Nigel also edits on a casual freelance basis in a private capacity and undertakes regular pro bono editing for a national charity and advocacy group. He is currently the Professional Development Coordinator in the Canberra Society of Editors.

Unparliamentary language - what line is it crossing?

This presentation explores the definition and regulation of unparliamentary language and the broader conceptual issues around it. Rules on parliamentary practice and actual incidents recorded in Hansard indicate that there are no precise definitions, and that the determination of what is unparliamentary is often highly dependent on individual context.

Based on my research, which includes examples from federal parliament and interviews with senior parliamentary officials, I look at whether it’s possible to say where the boundary between parliamentary and unparliamentary language lies, and what determines whether that line has been crossed. I also consider whether parliament should set or reflect community standards and expectations when it comes to language. In doing so, I examine briefly within both the community and parliamentary contexts, whether swearing and other ‘bad language’ is always inherently offensive and what the tolerance is for such language.

The presentation is based on my research paper for the ‘Parliamentary Law, Practice and Procedure’ course for parliamentary officers run by the Australia and New Zealand Association of Clerks-at-the-Table (ANZACATT) and the University of Tasmania, which is used with permission.
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Online, 28 to 30 June 2021
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